Rowell left scarred by mauling in the endless ruck

This is anything but a season of goodwill for Jack Rowell and, even on comfortably and comfortingly familiar territory watching his once- beloved Bath's epic Pilkington Cup despatch of Northampton, the England manager was looking thoroughly uncomfortable.

Accountability, or its apportionment between players and coaches, is an age-old sporting conundrum and in the aftermath of England's unsatisfactory though scarcely calamitous performance against Western Samoa the balance appears to have swung decisively against Rowell.

It is no exaggeration to say that in some quarters the manager has taken a metaphorical shoeing equivalent to that which, more literally, is known down under as New Zealand rucking methods and which Rowell himself attempted to instil in his England B players when they gave a tackle-bag a memorable going-over in Wanganui in 1992.

He did not succeed then and he is patently not succeeding now, either in the battle to change the way his players play or in the other battle, the public-relations one - which post-Samoa really has been calamitous. The well-appointed press box at the Recreation Ground neatly symbolised the dichotomy between Rowell and his accusers, with the manager one side of the glass in the wireless zone and the writers looking at him askance from the other side.

And ne'er the twain did meet, nor will they if our understanding of Rowell's extreme perturbation is true. All queries about England's training and selection for the French game in Paris on 20 January are referred by Rowell to Colin Herridge, the Rugby Football Union's media man, who then of course has to ask Jack. Which is plain daft.

Anyone who heard Rowell's interview with Ian Payne on Radio Five Live will have realised that here is a man who is struggling to restrain his incandescence. Payne was doubtless glad he was far away at the other end of the line, and there came a point when the producer was anxiously wondering whether Rowell would carry on as agreed to be the second voice during the match commentary.

For the record, Rowell never blamed the media - not in as many words, anyway - for the way England approached the Samoa match; the actual culprit was Will Carling, the captain, who told a television interviewer in the tunnel immediately after the final whistle that "the impression from the media was that we would put 50 points on them".

It would be interesting to know what part of which medium was responsible for this misapprehension though, even if it were so, the responses of both Rowell and Carling indicate that their team are astoundingly suggestible. But it seems to me the erroneous expectation came rather from an ignorant Twickenham crowd - those outside and not inside the press box - and that the poverty of England's performance owed as much to the disruption caused by their own interminable contract negoatiations with the RFU as to the way they tried to play.

Of more pressing concern for Rowell at the Rec - after he had told his radio listeners that the nation and complaisant media needed to get behind his team, that is - was the performance of the leaders of the First Division against the leaders of the Second. That Bath eked out a 12-3 victory through three Jonathan Callard penalties to one by Paul Grayson on a morass of a pitch under leaden skies would tell its own baleful tale if in fact the match had not been a magnificent spectacle fit to cheer even not-so- jolly Jack's heart.

Indeed here were two teams committed to playing the very rugby of which Rowell has spoken so often, and tempering their free-running aspirations with occasional appropriate deference to the demands of the conditions and the occasion. Now, if only England could manage something similar against France . . .

Moreover, this tie was a lesson for the law-makers as well as instructive for the England manager. Even before the new imperative of professionalism there was too much tampering in the interests of "entertainment" and if ever a game showed that "entertainment" does not necessarily consist of an endless series of tries and manufactured movement this was it.

All the talk - of which there is plenty - about removing basic elements of the rugby union game should thus be treated with contempt, because the alternative would be an ersatz concoction of next to no merit. It is time, instead, to declare ourselves unashamedly and wholeheartedly in favour of rucks and mauls, line-outs and scrums.

Northampton's presence in the fifth-round draw next Tuesday will be sadly missed because their intrepid display at Bath, significantly superior to anything achieved by this season's league vistors there, proved them already to be of upper First Division quality. From the actual First Division, Orrell and Sale will also be absent, the North-west's cup challenge having been ended by London in the shape of Harlequins and Wasps respectively.

Winnington Park of the Fifth Division North are the lowliest qualifiers for the last 16. Leeds of the Fourth Division saw off Waterloo of the Second and Coventry of the Third did likewise to Blackheath of the Second. Among those joining them are Newcastle, who can now look forward to having England's most-capped stand-off eligible to play in the fifth round. Better not mention Rob Andrew to big Jack, though.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Life and Style
A general view during the 2014 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at Earl's Court exhibition centre on 2 December, 2014 in London, England
fashionIt's not all about the catwalks: the big changes of the past year can be summed up in six clothing items
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?